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State Budget Committee gets update on elections costs, corrections financials

By Shellie Hampton
Secretary of State Michael Adams and officials with the Department of Corrections testify on COVID impact

This week’s Interim Appropriations and Revenue Committee agenda included a report on the costs of the upcoming general election, and a brief overview from the Department of Corrections. 

Secretary of State Adams told legislators on the committee, chaired by Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Kenton), that the template he and Gov. Andy Beshear worked from in forming their agreement for how to proceed on administering the November election came from a working group of county clerks and the State Board of Elections. 

Adams said the goals were to accommodate for a higher turnout traditionally experienced in a presidential election while attempting to get closer to normal by opening more precincts in November than were available on primary election day. He praised several county clerks who submitted plans that call for reopening all pre-COVID-19 precincts.

Kentucky had a 29 percent voter turnout in the June primary but is forecasted to reach 72 percent for the general election. 

Adams said Kentucky cannot handle the processing of a proportionate increase in absentee ballots. 

The plan he and the governor agreed to includes early in-person voting all business days and half-days on Saturdays beginning Oct. 13. County plans for voting are due by Sept. 30, but Adams has already approved 48 plans, and only Nicholas County had just one voting place open. Prior to the pandemic, Nicholas County had two. 

Of the 15,000 poll workers needed, 4,000 have volunteered. All voting locations will be finalized by Oct. 1. 

Adams said 75 to 80 percent of the votes would be counted by Election Night, with more in-person early voting and more Election Day locations open in most counties, as well as speeding up the processing of absentee ballots from the process used in the primary. 

Secretary Adams said the general election cost breakdown is as follows: 

  • After the primary, there is $2 million remaining in Help America Vote Act funds, which are restricted use for equipment upgrades, and require a matching county appropriation. He mentioned KACo is offering low-cost financing to counties. 
  • $2.5 million in federal CARES Act remains, for a total rollover of $4.5 million after the primary. 
  • The cost overrun is approximately $5.42 million.
  • Added expenses will include $4 million related to absentee ballot postage, $2.2 million for additional county clerk staff to process the additional absentee ballots, $2 million in equipment upgrades and $1 million for public service announcements to inform voters on when and where to vote.

Corrections numbers presented by Commissioner Cookie Crews and her staff included:

  • In Fiscal Year 2020, the state saved $10 million due to lower-than-forecasted inmate populations, making it the first time in 10 years the department has not needed to dip into the state’s “necessary governmental expense” funds, used to cover unexpected costs that occur when inmate populations in state and county facilities exceed the budgeted number. This was due in large part to the commutations Gov. Beshear has issued since March.
  • In Fiscal Year 2020, the department received $3.5 million from the federal CARES Act to help cover costs.
  • In response to questions, Commissioner Crews and her staff stated they expect an eventual return to pre-COVID-19 inmate population levels and will continue to track for any recidivism among those inmates released early during the pandemic. 

Click here to view the recorded meeting in its entirety on the Legislative Research Commission’s website. 


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